The contribution of school meals to energy and nutrient intake of Swedish children in relation to dietary guidelines
Background: In Sweden, school meals are served free of charge and Swedish law states that school meals must be nutritious. Nevertheless, data on children’s energy and nutrient intake from school meals are scarce.
Objective: The aim was to describe the contribution of school meals to Swedish children’s nutrient and energy intake during weekdays and compare this to the reference values based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR), which have been adopted as the official Swedish recommendations.
Design: A cross-sectional food consumption survey was performed on 1,840 Swedish children attending Grade 2 (mean age 8.6) and Grade 5 (mean age 11.7). The children’s nutrient and energy intake was compared to the reference values based on the NNR.
Results: The mean intake from school meals of energy, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and vitamins D and E did not reach the reference values and the intake of saturated fatty acids (SFA) and sodium exceeded the reference values in both age groups (significant differences, all p≤0.001). Additionally, the pupils in Grade 5 did not reach the reference values for folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc (significant differences, all p≤0.001). Standardized for energy, dietary fiber, PUFA, and vitamins D and E did not reach the reference values, whereas the reference values for SFA and sodium were exceeded in both age groups (significant differences, all p≤0.001).
Conclusions: The study pointed to some central nutrients in need of improvement as regards school meals in Sweden, namely the quality of fat, dietary fiber, sodium, vitamin D, and iron. Some of these results may be attributed to the children not reporting eating the recommended number of calories, the children omitting some components of the meal, or underreporting, as a consequence of which the reference values for several nutrients were not met.
Keywords: school meals; school lunches; children; nutrient intake; energy intake
(Published: 30 October 2015)
Responsible Editor: Per Ole Iversen, University of Oslo, Norway.
Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2015, 59: 27563 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v59.27563
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